Homeland: Episode 02.03 “State of Independence”

Claire Danes in Homeland

We all know how TV drama plots generally work: one step forward, two steps back. Both Carrie and Brody’s stories this week had a circular nature that seemed to be following that model—and then boom, we get a knock on the door in the episode’s final minutes that changes everything. The plot twist from the final moments of last week’s episode—Saul finding Brody’s video confession—pays off in a big way, one that has clear repercussions for everyone. Most shows would have sat on this, drawn it out for half a season or more, toying with our expectations of whether the intel would ever be revealed to our key players, or if Saul might be the mole while various contrivances kept him from going to Estes or Carrie with the damaging proof.

Thankfully, Homeland’s commitment to keeping up the show’s tension and momentum and taking risks prevented that from happening. But in a clever opening sequence, we think that might be the case. At the Beirut airport, Saul is detained and “officials”—likely paid off by the Hezbollah—rifle through his classified, diplomatically protected briefcase and find a memory card in the lining. Mandy Patinkin plays it off beautifully, visibly anxious and concerned…and then we cut to him on the airplane, where he stealthily removes the real card from a hidden compartment in the case. The scene also neatly seems to eliminate any possibility that Saul is a mole.

Meanwhile, Carrie is listening to her signature jazz again, the discordant noise filling her head as she types furiously on a report for the mission she just completed late into the night, despite her father’s firm and logical reminders that she’s not doing herself any favors and needs sleep to stay healthy. Carrie mostly blithely ignores this, riding the buzz of success until Estes turns her away—against CIA policy—from a debriefing about the mission. He not unkindly gives her a reality check, thanking and commending her excellent work, while asserting that she is not reinstated. Claire Danes’s reaction, as we see this finally register while she struggles to keep control in a CIA elevator, is yet another stellar moment. Homeland is often too obvious with its dialogue (several times tonight alone a character handily summarizes a point that has already been conveyed more subtly), but it’s so wholly unnecessary when you’ve got actors like Danes, Mandy Patinkin, and Damien Lewis who do their best and most moving work when the show just lets the cameras roll on their incredibly expressive faces.

Over at the Brody home, Jessica finds the speech her husband’s prepared for the veterans’ fundraiser and is taken aback by the candor with which he describes his imprisonment. It’s the first time she’s hearing anything of his feelings about captivity, she tells him when he catches her reading it. They have a touching moment of connection that leads to a moment of passion, but Brody first tries to pull away then turns forceful, aggressively lifting her onto a kitchen counter and kissing her, until Jess slows him down and forces him to look at her. They’re interrupted by Dana’s untimely early arrival home, but the whole scene’s a good reminder of how strained their marriage still is, despite seemingly being in a better place thanks to Brody’s new political fame.

Damian LewisThen Brody takes a call from Riza who has a mission: she needs him to escort a friend of Abu Nazir, a tailor in Gettysburg, to a safehouse. It’s another of those scenarios that is somewhat contrived (would they really send someone with as high a profile and key government placing to do such a risky job?), but leads to a harrowing turn of events. Brody thinks (possibly mistakenly) that the government is about to close in and hustles the tailor out immediately, not even allowing the man to pack a bag. The panic and suspicion leads to some tense sequences where the tailor, Bressel, seems to be alternately considering killing Brody (before Brody can kill him) or running, and he finally opts for the latter, taking off into the woods at a gas station. Brody has to chase him down and tackles him, but Bressel falls on a root, impaling him in the gut. Brody quickly tries to stop the bleeding, growing more and more panicked, and asking Bressel about his family to distract him, telling him to think of his daughter and keep her as his source of strength. As Bressel begs to be taken to a hospital, Jess calls demanding to know why he’s not at the fundraiser yet. Brody, out of breath and out of his mind, does a horrible job of covering, and as she questions him, doubting his at-least-somewhat true story of a flat tire. Then Bressel begins calling for help, which Jessica sort of hears, and Brody tries to smother the man’s cries, ultimately snapping his neck when he can’t.

Meanwhile. Jessica is finally getting her chance to shine. She gives an eloquent, though awkwardly personal speech about Brody’s struggles at readjusting, being rather extremely candid about their marriage woes. She finishes a bit more adeptly, turning it into a plea for family crisis and support centers for veterans’ relatives, and gets a standing ovation. Yet, it’s difficult to imagine that speech not endangering Brody’s political career, as she talks about the lack of intimacy and the violence that causes Brody to wake from nightmares, attacking her in her sleep. Eep. Brody’s whole platoon is there, and Mike ends up driving Jessica home. She invites him in for a nightcap, which Mike declines and then after Jess tells him Brody cheated on her with Carrie for a whole weekend, he changes his mind. They saunter towards the house arm in arm just as Brody pulls up. It all leads to Jessica confronting him about his frequent lies and suggesting he should spend the night at a hotel—and give their marriage some serious thought because she’s not sure she can do this anymore. The final sour cherry on top: Dana comes out of her room during her parents fight, looks at him with disappointment, and goes back into her room and shuts the door. So much for clinging to her strength!

Likewise, Carrie is without a life preserver herself. Spiraling from Estes’s rebuke at the CIA, she goes home and restlessly wanders around her house before, in a lovely symmetrical scene to the show’s pilot, she pulls out her old spangly tank and faux-wedding ring. She gets all gussied up to go out and troll for a one-night stand, then has a moment of revelation as she looks in the mirror. Carrie turns away, walking almost robotically into the kitchen and swallowing down two bottles of pills and two glasses of wine then lays down to await the consequences. Luckily, she comes to her senses a moment later, running into the bathroom to puke up the drugs.

It’s hard to watch the brilliant, brave Carrie give up, even though it’s wholly logical in context. With nothing left to lose, Carrie’s ready to check out. Unlike with Brody though, Carrie does get saving grace: Saul Berenson knocks on her door and shows her Brody’s confession. Danes’s reaction is incredulous and thoroughly gratifying as she processes, asking Saul disbelievingly, “I was right?”, then louder and with sheer relief and joy. “I was right.” Danes may have nailed next year’s Best Actress Emmy with that scene alone, and the vindication is so incredibly gratifying for those of us who’ve watched along and rooted for Carrie to find out. It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for this to become public knowledge and to imagine what kind of new directions this will open up for the show.
 


Tara Gelsomino is a reader, writer, pop culture junkie, and Internet addict. You can tweet her at @taragel.

Read all Tara Gelsomino’s posts for Criminal Element.

Comments

  1. Saundra Peck

    This show is so awesome! I have watched this episode 2 times already! You are so right that the actors play the characters brilliantly. I cannot ever believe an hour has passed when the credits start to roll…

  2. Tara Gelsomino

    sk1336, Right? It goes sooo fast! I’m always sad when the hour is over. I hear the next two episodes are just as phenomenal too! Can’t wait.

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